The ACT’s temporary COVID-19 emergency department is taking shape on Garran Oval and is on target to be complete by mid-May.
The ACT Government contracted local company Aspen Medical to build and operate the facility at a cost of $23 million earlier this month when concerns were high that the ACT’s hospital system would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases if the virus spread through the Canberra population.
Since then, social distancing and other containment measures have reduced the presence of the virus in Canberra to virtually zero, with only two active cases isolating at home with ACT Health support.
But the government and health officials remain vigilant due to fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the winter, particularly if restrictions are eased.
“While we are seeing a decrease of confirmed cases in the Territory, we are continuing with plans for this facility to ensure we are prepared and well-resourced should we see an increase in cases,” an ACT Health spokesperson said.
Sited close to the Canberra Hospital campus for the fast and easy transfer of patients, work on the facility began on 9 April but the model of care and number of staff required at the facility is still to be determined.
When the 50-bed facility, including six resuscitation beds, was announced, Aspen Medical said it would need about 200 staff.
The spokesperson said the ED remained a temporary facility and would only take patients with COVID-19.
”The facility will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency,” the spokesperson said. “It will be removed, and Garran Oval will be fully restored once the state of health emergency is stood down.
”This facility has been built specifically to expand our capacity and enhance our ability to respond to COVID-19.”
The pre-fabricated, steel, rectangular structure is being manufactured off-site and then assembled on a concrete slab before being fitted out.
It will be connected to the hospital via covered walkways.
Aspen Medical made its name globally providing rapid response medical services in many different locations, some remote and in epidemic situations, such as the African ebola outbreak.
The ACT Government has funded the $23 million project to the end of July, but Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it will continue operating after July if required.